There’s S*#t in the Meat EVERYTHING! (Lean a Little Bit Closer…Roses Really Smell Like Poo-Poo)

March 2, 2009 | Comments Off on There’s S*#t in the Meat EVERYTHING! (Lean a Little Bit Closer…Roses Really Smell Like Poo-Poo)

Mayor Menino visits tenants affected by foreclosure

Mayor Menino visits tenants affected by foreclosure.

At the beginning of this decade, Eric Schlosser provided us all with an alarming wake-up call in his book Fast Food Nation—I think, by now, we all know what is (hopefully now a “was”) in the meat. As we approach the end of this decade, our eyes have been opened to yet another alarming reality about what seems to be a great American predilection for fecal matter: it isn’t just in our hamburgers, it is in everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, from those convenient little (probably now worthless and/or maxed-out) plastic cards we keep in our wallets, to our stock “portfolios,” to our mortgage agreements. It’s probably in that bottle of cheap, domestically manufactured perfume you bought your girlfriend for Valentine’s Day (it’s ok, we understand that you watched your cell cube mate get “downsized” last week and didn’t want to risk spending the money on the fancy French stuff, just in case the same fate awaits you.) Are those really chocolate-chips in that bag of generic, unbranded cookies you bought to keep you company while you eat away your sorrows on the couch? Ok, that’s just gross and I take it back, but chances are if you are reading this, you have a couch to sit on and a roof over your head… for now.

You are not alone in your fear and uncertainly. Since the start of this recession, over three and a half million Americans have lost their jobs, and counting. In the words of our President, “[a] lost home often begins with a lost job.” It’s no surprise then that nearly six million are in or at risk of foreclosure. Some groups blame the repeal of the Depression-Era Glass-Steagall Act (New Deal regulation which created a wall between commercial and investment banks, and essentially prevented banking institutions from having the power to make loans and then underwrite, securitize and sell mortgage backed instruments under one roof.) Others point the finger at “Fannie Mac,” “Freddie Mae,” HUD, and the CRA… few can keep the names or acronyms straight anymore, but many will agree that this foreclosure crisis is the sad result of one of the greatest American $#!T fests of all time—sub-prime and predatory lending, and the securitization of loans that fueled the housing and McMansion boom of the past decade. (They clearly didn’t coin the term McMansion for no reason. I think, by now, the shocking similarity between “what’s in the meat” and what is in everything else is becoming abundantly clear.)

While the new administration is working hard to resolve this fecal foreclosure crisis at a national level, the real solution begins with taking action right here at home, especially if you are still fortunate to have one to protect. In 2007, the City of Boston reported that “foreclosures in Boston could reach 1,200 in 2008, compared with 703 in 2007 and 60 in 2005.” While the city has yet to release the official statistics for 2008, I think it is safe to assume that we’ve likely exceeded “expectations.” In examining the impact on our own community, analysts also point to lending patterns—particularly the lending of high APR loans to sub-prime borrowers—as a link to the current foreclosure crisis. However, there is a social-economic and racial/ethnic dimension as well. Black and Latino borrowers were much more likely to get these high APR loans than were Whites. For home-purchase loans in Greater Boston, for example, the high APR loan shares were 49% for Blacks and 48% for Latinos, but only 11% for Whites. “The four Boston neighborhoods with the highest percentages of minority residents—Mattapan, Roxbury, Dorchester, and Hyde Park—also had the four highest high APR loan shares for home-purchase lending, all greater than 40%; meanwhile, in the four neighborhoods with fewer than 25% minority residents—Back Bay/Beacon Hill, South Boston, West Roxbury, and Charlestown—the high APR loan shares were between 3.2% and 11.2%. The Boston neighborhoods with large minority populations—Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan and Hyde Park—accounted for 75.3 % of all foreclosure deeds in 2007. Regardless of the percentage of total home ownership these neighborhoods represent, they remain alarming nonetheless. The bottom-line is that, based on geography, the majority of foreclosures in Boston in 2007 were comprised of neighborhoods with the largest minority and low-income populations. It is important to also take note of the secondary impact of foreclosed rental properties and the effect on tenants in the aforementioned neighborhoods and beyond.

The time for pointing fingers has passed. These harrowing statistics provide not merely a reason to sulk, but a call to action. A robust effort is currently underway to address the foreclosure crisis plaguing both our country, nationally, and Massachusetts, regionally. The Harvard BLSA Social Justice Committee seeks to provide a forum for candid, engaged conversation on the current situation and ways to effect change, both legislatively and judicially. As we kick-off Social Justice Week, the committee is looking forward to presentations by representatives from the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending (MAAPL) on legislation currently pending in the Massachusetts legislature. MAAPL is a coalition of over 30 community organizations, housing counseling agencies, legal services groups, and others who have come together to work on the sub-prime foreclosure crisis in Massachusetts. We believe that this current legislation has the potential to greatly impact the Commonwealth’s housing policy.

The legislation package includes several bills: (1) a temporary (six month) moratorium on foreclosures involving sub-prime and other “creative” mortgage instruments that are presumptively unfair, while comprehensive solutions are negotiated at the state and federal level, (2) tenant protection from eviction in foreclosed properties, enabling tenants to pay rent and stay in their homes when a property is re-appropriated by a lender via foreclosure, and (3) the imposition of a judicial foreclosure requirement which would require court-approval in foreclosure proceeding, ensuring that those facing foreclosure receive due process. For more information on MAAPL and details on the proposed legislation, please visit http://www.maapl.info/legislation.html.

Please join Harvard BLSA for Social Justice Week and learn more about what is being done to combat inequality in our community and what you can do to get involved! For more information, contact us at  hblsasj at gmail.com.


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  • EVENTS

    Harvard Black Law Students Association presents...
    Social Justice Week


    March 2nd - 6th

    Monday: Social Justice Week Kick-Off

    BLSA general body meeting featuring a special presentation by Noah Hood and the BLSA Social Justice Committee

    Langdell South 7:00 pm

    Dinner will be served

    Tuesday: Education

    Education Awareness Candy Campaign Learn about some of the problems facing Boston's youth, including the unfair and exclusionary expulsion policies

    Harkness Common 12:00 noon

    Wednesday: Housing

    Housing Recovery Acts in MA Some of the areas foremost housing activists will gather to discuss legislation concerning predatory lending practices

    Hauser 101 7:30 pm

    Refreshments will be served

    Thursday: Criminal Justice

    Sealing Criminal Records: Implications for Social Justice

    A panel of the leading voices in criminal justice reform will speak about criminal record information laws.

    Austin Hall 7:00 pm

    A Soul Food Dinner will be served.

    Friday: Criminal Justice

    CORI Sealing Training

    Criminal Record Sealing Training involves hands-on training. Participants will be able to help with upcoming CORI Sealing projects.